Photo courtesy of Steve Burney
I have always, for as long as I can remember, been in love with airplanes. I read all of the books I could find at the library that had anything to do with airplanes. I also used to ride the bus to the Palm Springs airport to watch the planes come and go (back in the day before X-Ray checks when people were allowed to walk right up to the gate). Mom was always encouraging my independence, allowing me to ride the bus alone to the airport and on Sunday mornings ride my bike to the park where the R/C club flew. In my early teens, my parents helped me afford the cost of my first model R/C plane when my paper route money wasn't enough.
When I was 16, my Dad and a friend of his were looking at a boat to buy. It was in Lake Havasu, which is about a 3 hour drive from where we lived, but another friend of theirs had just earned his Private license and offered to fly them. It was a Grumman Tiger, and the 2 of them, plus the pilot, left one seat open and I quickly claimed it. That really sealed the deal for me. Being able to not only touch the airplane, but get inside and go for a ride in one, even in the back seat, had been a desire of mine for a LONG, LONG time. My main memory of that flight was the relatively short 3000' runway at Bermuda Dunes and the long landing when we returned that had me wondering if we would be able to stop before the end of the runway. But now, I had seen behind the curtain and knew what I had to do to get into the airplane again.
By that time, I was working at a local drug store, and pay day was the Thursday after that first flight. I had it all planned out, and after school I went to the store, got my paycheck, went to the bank to cash it, then straight out to Bermuda Dunes Airport. I walked into the flight school where we had rented the Tiger from and asked to take flying lessons. They set me up with Jack, a retired Navy pilot, and a yellow T-Cat and away we went. That still ranks as one of the best days of my life. When we returned they sold me a logbook to note the flight in, and Jack filled out the first line.
When I returned home that evening I walked in the front door and my Mom was sitting on the couch in the living room. I still couldn't stop smiling from the flight, and my Mom asked what I had been doing all day. I told her I bought a new book for $40 and showed her my logbook. She commented that it was an awfully thin book for $40, so I told her it wasn't the book itself that cost the $40, but what was in it, and then I told her I had just taken my first flying lesson. Her response was that she thought it was wrong that I could do that without them even asking her permission. I guess in hindsight, I never expected her to forbid it because she had never forbade anything before so I felt comfortable making the decision to take that lesson and going through with it. That was the gift my Mom gave me. The confidences to make my own decisions, carry out the action, and accept the result. I could tell she was concerned about my flying but she never tried to discourage me from the pursuit. In fact, a year and a half later it was time to take my check ride. The following day we were to leave on our annual beach camping trip, and the day after we returned I had to leave for college. The problem was, I had run out of money. In the ultimate show of support, Mom and Dad gave me the $200 I needed to take the check ride. I'm still convinced that if I hadn't received my license that day 3 weeks before my 18th birthday I wouldn't have it at all and Mom wouldn't have to worry about me flying anymore. Regardless of her own feelings, though, she was always there to encourage my interests, celebrate my successes, and console my failures.
Thank you, Mom.